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Bentley refuses Syrian refugees relocating to Alabama

Gov. Robert Bentley testifies before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to highlight Alabama’s prison reform efforts. (Photo: Bentley Admin.)
Gov. Robert Bentley testifies before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to highlight Alabama’s prison reform efforts. (Photo: Bentley Admin.)

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Governor Robert Bentley announced late Sunday evening that his administration will refuse Syrian refugees slated to be relocated to Alabama in the coming weeks.

“After full consideration of this weekend’s attacks of terror on innocent citizens in Paris, I will oppose any attempt to relocate Syrian refugees to Alabama through the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program,” Bentley said in a statement. “As your Governor, I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way.”

According to the U.S. State Department, more than 100 Syrian and other Middle Eastern refugees were slated to be housed by Catholic Social Services (CSS) in Mobile.

Though the CSS is part of the church’s Archdiocese of Mobile, the program is completely funded by federal tax dollars. CSS volunteer outreach coordinator Erin Dunn told Yellowhammer in September the service is equipped to provide assistance to up to 130 new refugees in the coming year.

“We work with them for about 6 months to help them become self-sufficient,” explained Dunn. “We have various programs that our case managers walk them through, and we have a job developer that helps them find jobs, and case managers work on connecting them to local resources… As volunteer outreach coordinator, I work with volunteers who are willing to help teach them English, or take them to the grocery store, or teach them how to ride the bus. It’s pretty much everything you can think of to help orient them to the city so after six months they’re able to be self-sufficient.”

According to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the State Department provides $1,850 per refugee for the first three months of assistance, to be used for reception, initial housing, food, clothing, referrals services and social programs.

However, if the refugees are not able to find a job in those first three months, or are precluded from doing so due to a disability, they are eligible for many welfare programs, including Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF), Medicaid, SNAP (food stamps), and Supplemental Security Income.

Revelations that refugees could have access to welfare prompted widespread backlash around the state and country, but the security concerns are undoubtedly the most pressing.

“The acts of terror committed over the weekend are a tragic reminder to the world that evil exists and takes the form of terrorists who seek to destroy the basic freedoms we will always fight to preserve,” Gov. Bentley said Sunday. “I will not place Alabamians at even the slightest, possible risk of an attack on our people. Please continue to join me in praying for those who have suffered loss and for those who will never allow freedom to fade at the hands of terrorists.”

The Bentley administration said there is not any credible intelligence indicating that Alabama is or has been the target of any terrorist threats. However, law enforcement presence has been increased at large events in Alabama to further insure the safety of citizens. Bentley also said the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is working diligently with the FBI, DHS and federal intelligence partners to monitor any possible threats.

This story will be updated as more information comes in.